Ahead of Asean summit, Amnesty urges probe of Myanmar junta chief

The meeting is the first concerted international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar.
The meeting is the first concerted international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Amnesty International urged South-east Asian nations on Friday (April 23) to investigate Myanmar’s junta leader for crimes against humanity amid reports that he will attend a regional summit on the crisis in his country this week.

The Asean summit is to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia. Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, who ousted the civilian government on Feb 1, is likely to attend, diplomats and officials in the host nation have said.

“As a state party to the UN Convention Against Torture, Indonesia has a legal obligation to prosecute or extradite a suspected perpetrator on its territory,” Amnesty said in a statement.

“The Myanmar crisis trigged by the military presents Asean with the biggest test in its history,” Amnesty’s deputy regional director for research Emerlynne Gil said in the statement. “The bloc’s usual commitment to non-interference is a non-starter: this is not an internal matter for Myanmar but a major human rights and humanitarian crisis which is impacting the entire region and beyond.”

A grouping of 45 South-east Asian non-governmental organisations said the invitation to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to attend the summit “provides legitimacy... to the genocidal slaughter being committed by the military regime against its own citizens and people”. It urged Asean leaders to include Myanmar lawmakers ousted by the military in the Jakarta meeting.

“Asean leaders will not be able to achieve anything at this summit to solve the current crisis without consulting and negotiating with the rightful representatives of the peoples of Myanmar,” the NGOs said in a letter published on social media.

The meeting is the first concerted international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar, where security forces have killed hundreds of pro-democracy protesters since the February coup. It is also a test for Asean, which traditionally does not interfere in the internal affairs of a member state and operates by consensus.

Asean's members include Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Myanmar's military has shown no sign of wanting to talk to members of the government it ousted, accusing some of them of treason, which is punishable by death.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said he hoped the summit would pave the way for a "soft landing".

China - Myanmar's giant neighbour and which many protesters say supports the junta - is not a member of Asean, but is included in an Asean Plus Three grouping, along with Japan and South Korea. It was not immediately clear whether China will be attending Saturday's meeting in Jakarta.

"China will maintain close communication with Asean, and continue to handle any work related to Myanmar in its own way," said Mr Wang.

Last week, Myanmar's pro-democracy politicians, including ousted Members of Parliament, announced the formation of a National Unity Government that nominally includes deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup, as well as leaders of the protests and ethnic minorities.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Myanmar activist group, says 739 people have been killed by security forces since the coup and 3,300 people are in detention.